Words Matter – Stop the Spread of AAPI Hate

By Monique Fierro

As the fears and threats of COVID spread throughout the United States and our community, Former President Donald Trump  spread anti-Asian hate and discrimination by blaming the pandemic on the Chinese government[1] and calling it the “Chinese virus,” the “Wuhan virus,” and the “kung flu.”[2] This racist rhetoric spurred increase violence, hate crimes, and discrimination against Asian Americans.  According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes decreased overall by 7 percent in 2020; however, hate crimes targeting the Asian community rose by nearly 150 percent.[3]

In Stop AAPI Hate’s National Report, it broke down 3,795 hate incidents toward the AAPI community received by their organization from March 19, 2020 to February 2021.[4]   According to the report, women disproportionately experienced hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.[5]

Despite the known rise in hate crimes and discrimination against the AAPI community over the past year, President Trump continued his racist rhetoric and insistence on referring to COVID as the “China virus” as recently as March 16, 2021, on the same night 6 Asian women and 2 others were shot and killed in spas across Atlanta.[6]

Although sad, it is unsurprising to learn that the police officer who was widely criticized for failing to acknowledge the Atlanta murders as racist, sexist hate crimes and chalking it up to the shooter having a “bad day,” was also reported to have recently promoted a T-shirt on Facebook describing the coronavirus as “IMPORTED FROM CHY-NA.”[7]

Still unconvinced of the link between the racist rhetoric associated with COVID and the rise in hate crimes against the AAIP community?  See also, the study[8] published in the American Journal of Public Health on March 18, 2021 analyzing the racial terms and hashtags associated with COVID and the growth of anti-Asian sentiment and discrimination.

What is the takeaway from these connections between racist, nationalist rhetoric and the rise in violence toward those against whom the racist rhetoric has been targeted? Words matter.  Words from those in positions of power matter.  We must hold accountable our leaders and those in position of power who have a duty to put a stop to racist, sexist, hateful speech that leads to violence against minorities and women.  We must hold accountable our leaders and those in position of power who fail to call out acts of violence targeted against women and minorities as hate crimes, because words matter.

See SBWL’s statement condemning the March 16, 2021 hate crimes against the 6 Asian women and 2 others murdered in a racist, sexist killing spree.  SBWL stands against the hate crimes and the racist, sexist motivations underpinning them.  We hold accountable those who fail to do otherwise and those who fail to do their part to end the hate speech against the AAIP community that has disproportionately led to increased violence against Asian women.

We remember the victims of the March 16th hate crimes: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Paul Andre Michels, Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong Ae Yue.

[1] Neuman, Scott. NPR.  “In U.N. Speech, Trump Blasts China And WHO, Blaming Them For Spread of COVID-19. September 22, 2020.  https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/09/22/915630892/in-u-n-speech-trump-blasts-china-and-who-blaming-them-for-spread-of-covid-19.

McNeil Jr., Donald and Andrew Jacobs. The New York Times. “Blaming China for Pandemic, Trump Says U.S. Will Leave the W.H.O.” May 29, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/health/virus-who.html.

[2] The Guardian. “Donald Trump calls Covid-19 ‘kung flu’ at Tulsa rally.” June 20, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/20/trump-covid-19-kung-flu-racist-language.

[3] Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. “Fact Sheet: Anti-Asian Prejudice March 2020.” https://www.csusb.edu/sites/default/files/FACT%20SHEET-%20Anti-Asian%20Hate%202020%203.2.21.pdf.

[4] Jeung, Russel et al. Stop AAPI Hate. “Stop AAIP Hate National Report.” https://secureservercdn.net/

[5] Id. 

[6] Fox News Segment where Trump again calls COVID ‘the China virus.’ March 16, 2021. https://youtu.be/UM9JvYjPW6o.

[7] Shapiro, Emily. ABC News. “Georgia sheriff’s department under fire after official says spa shootings suspect had a ‘really bad day.’” March 18, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/US/georgia-sheriffs-department-fire-official-spa-shootings-suspect/story?id=76533598.

[8] https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306154.